Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s 6th film is a far more gut-wrenching affair than his previously Oscar-winner Birdman. An epic adventure set in 1823, the plot centres on the embellished true story of fur trapper Hugh Glass – mauled by a bear and left for dead by his comrades, he claws his way through the frostbitten Montana landscape intent on revenge.
The film opens with a Malick-esque shot of tranquil beauty that lures the audience into believing they are watching a different film. The flowing water is shot with astonishing clarity before serenity is disturbed and all hell breaks loose. A strikingly choreographed sequence follows, and Iñárritu’s camera flows through the chaos, immersing his audience fully in the dizzying violence. From this scene, the film’s relentless brutality is first witnessed.
This sequence also displays the films gorgeous cinematography. All credit goes to Emmanuel Lubezki who surely is on the path for his third consecutive Oscar (Birdman, Gravity). From the majestic wide shots of mist covered mountains to the flickers of flame that look like fireflies against the deep blue night sky, Lubezki’s chilling cinematography elevates the film to more than just an ordinary tale of survival.
the director overpowers the film with his desire to push everything to its absolute limit
Though the main buzz concerns whether DiCaprio will finally get that Oscar (or we be left victims to another onslaught of memes). DiCaprio gives a brilliantly raw performance where, contrasting his comedic turn in The Wolf of Wall Street, he rarely utters a word. Every step feels painful, his face displays melancholy and vengeful rage, he spits and grunts and gives his all in his most physical performance to date. The odds of receiving best actor are in his favour as the Academy are known for favouring actors who have suffered (if anything written about the filming process is to go by the he did…) but I doubt that this performance will be remembered after the buzz disappears.
Tom Hardy again relies on intense physicality playing the antagonist of the film, however Hardy’s issue is mumbling his dialogue (clearly still in Bane mode) and frequently is inaudible. While Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter are underrated. Gleeson is spot on as the straight-laced Captain whose uncompromising nature could give Hardy a run for his money. Poulter however plays his young character’s naivety brilliantly, seemingly on the verge of tears throughout. These actors are chameleonic presences who I hope will become much more prolific.
However The Revenant is not a perfect and the director overpowers the film with his desire to push everything to its absolute limit, which results in a marginally long running time. Nevertheless it is an intense, exhausting film which needs to be seen in the cinema for its absorbing performance and cinematography.